Stoke-on-Trent (United Kingdom) (AFP) – For Leicester City, any good news is welcome at present, so two pieces would mean joy for Claudio Ranieri.
The defending but faltering Premier League champions head for Stoke City on Saturday with last weekend’s stirring victory over Manchester City already a fading memory following a costly midweek defeat to Bournemouth.
But the return to action of goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and midfielder Danny Drinkwater could give Ranieri’s men the perfect pick-me-up ahead of their visit to the Potteries.
Schmeichel seems almost certain to return in place of Ron-Robert Zieler, who has filled in unconvincingly for eight games while the Dane nursed a broken hand.
But Drinkwater, who, like Schmeichel, was a star of last season’s shock title triumph, could also be back to hand his side an extra boost.
“Kasper is training very well and feels good,” said Ranieri.
“On Thursday he played in a little game between us. I want to see the reaction tomorrow but the hand is OK.
“The goalkeeper isn’t so different because he has to understand the line of the ball and reactions.”
Drinkwater could return following a knee injury that has kept him out of the last two matches.
“I’ll also check Drinkwater tomorrow (Friday),” said Ranieri.
“He has a little problem with his knee from Porto (the Champions League clash in Portugal earlier this month). He asked to continue but then I changed.”
If they return, the pair will do so to a team whose away form has ended any hopes of defending the title they stunned the world by winning.
Their record of one point from eight away games is the worst in the top flight this season, while they have lost four of their last six league outings at home and away.
“I think my strength is my balance inside myself — I don’t go high when everything is fantastic and down when it’s not right,” said Ranieri.
“I know only one medicine -– to work, work and work. This is the right medicine to try to help my players. My players are working very well in training.”
Stoke, meanwhile, have out-performed Leicester all season and, while they dropped two points at home to Southampton on Wednesday, a goalless draw following the first-half sending off of Marko Arnautovic represented a handy result.
Stoke manager Mark Hughes, whose side have recovered after a poor start to the campaign to only lose two of their last 11 matches, is upset referees still have the impression his team are overly physical.
“For whatever reason, there seems to be this perception when officials come here that maybe an early yellow card sets down Stoke City,” said Hughes.
“The idea that it’s always a hard place to go, the crowd are up and whatever — I know for a fact that’s what they talk about.
“But in my view those days are long gone to be perfectly honest. We play a different way of football and have done for a long time.
“You can argue whether or not it’s better, different or whatever but I think the perception is the referees have to come here and calm Stoke City players down.”
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